In 1999, a survey in USA Today reported the most popular questions that people would have for God if they could ask Him anything directly and get an immediate response. What would you ask? I often think about this, allowing myself the pleasure of curiosity for a few minutes before dismissing the idea as silly. The conclusion I come to is that there is really no question worth asking that has not already been answered by God. Aside from trite little observations about the natural world or the design of the human body, there is no inquiry that is so confounding that my faith should be shaken. And everything “faith-shaking” already has a scripture as clear as day to answer it. There are, of course, some things that we are not expected to know, but in the realm of curiosities, everything necessary has been divulged. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
· What I want to know is whether or not people would actually believe in God if their questions were answered! If we could tell an atheist the meaning of life, or why good people suffer, would he renounce his disbelief?
· Questions are sometimes excuses for people looking for a reason not to believe. Micah 6:8 states, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” God has told us what we need to know, and has given us the answers to most of the questions we would want to ask (2 Peter 1:3, John 16:13, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
· Is there really anything so perplexing or mystifying that it denies the existence of God or our responsibility to Him? Does it matter that much why humans have a tailbone, or an appendix, or where the platypus came from, or what happened to the dinosaurs?
· It should be noted that 12 percent of those surveyed did not have a question for God, which may be a startling reflection of the indifference of our society.
Abraham was a man who had a question for God, but it is very interesting to see how he goes about asking it in Genesis 18. When he wants to know how many people it would take for God to spare the city of Sodom, we see that he shows nothing but humility. He is not trying to supplant God, deny Him, or tell God what to do. He simply wants to know the range of the Lord’s mercy. “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). There is a tremendous amount of humility displayed here because Abraham realizes that he is speaking to God. If we do realize that we have questions for God, we need to keep things in perspective and make sure that our questions are not actually doubts.
Job also questioned God, but with an attitude that displeased Him. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!” (Job 38:2-3). When we ask God questions in a tone that is out of place or haughty, we simply display our foolishness to the Almighty. People need to realize that having a question for God does not give us the right to criticize Him.
“What is mankind’s purpose?”
The highest percentage of those surveyed (34%) wanted to know what the purpose of mankind is. Yet the Lord has certainly answered that question already. The reason we are made is to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7). “Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Other translations state, “Because this is the duty of man” or “the whole purpose of man.” That is, every single person was created for a purpose: serving the Lord. We find our greatest contentment in obeying God, for this is our designed function. God made us with the innate need for worship, which is unfortunately mishandled and channeled to inappropriate ends. When we do not worship God, we end up worshipping His creation (Romans 1:25):
· Mankind’s wisdom;
· Our conclusions about nature and creation;
· Our perceived beauty;
· Mountains, the sun, moon, stars;
“Will I be ‘alive’ after death?”
The next group (19%) wanted to know about life after death, or if there is an afterlife. We know that the answer to that question is yes. We will either live for eternity with God (Philippians 1:21-23) or we will spend an eternity in torment (Luke 16:22-26, Matthew 8:11-12, John 5:28-29). Our destiny depends on whether or not we are obeying Christ (Matthew 7:21-23, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). But how is it that a loving Heavenly Father would condemn so many people because they supposedly cannot or will not accept certain religious beliefs? Ironic, is it not, that upon hearing the answer to this question, most people immediately being arguing!
· First, people can believe the truth, and are without excuse (Romans 1:18).
· Second, the issue is not of inability, but of selfishness (John 3:36, Acts 7:51-53).
· What other subjects have people rejected God’s truth on and found success? When people do not accept God’s word, no matter how harsh or merciful we perceive it to be, only rape, war, envy, jealousy, pride, and social pathology results.
· If there is no Hell, then there is no Heaven. We must accept them both if we want one or other – there is no choice in the matter!
· Hell is God’s answer for injustice in the world. What kind of a god would allow evil people to go unpunished and good people unrewarded? Would you want God to let Hitler into Heaven? Would you want to share eternity with Stalin?
· Even people who were just uninterested in religion, or “see things differently”, will go to Hell – not because they were good people who merely did not believe the right things, but because they reject truth. It is rebellion and defiance.
“Why do people suffer?”
Another question that people want to ask God is why people suffer, especially individuals who are good or children who are innocent. 16% of those who were surveyed asked this, and yet it seems to be a question that generation after generation seems to be curious about. The answer is more simple that we sometimes think, friend. God created mankind with free will (Deuteronomy 30:15), and the selfish exercise of that free will always results in harming somebody else. Selfishness is the root of every sin, and it does nothing but destroy what God tries to put together. The question of suffering always goes back to sin. We suffer because of our own sins (Romans 1:24, 28-31, 1 Peter 4:15). We suffer because of other people who sin (Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so death spread to all men, because all sinned”). But there is no complaining for any of us because we have all sinned and brought about punishments, pain, suffering, and humiliation (Romans 3:23).
People who balk about God and suffering often forget about the suffering and pain they have brought into the world. We get so caught up in all of the injustices happening to us, and blame God for the pain, but fail to realize that people are the source of injustice. We have hurt others – obviously not God’s doing – just as much as others have hurt us. Instead of complaining to God, we ought to look at the root of our suffering:
· The kind of people with whom we associate may be causing us pain;
· Our addictions will cause physical and emotional suffering;
· Unresolved problems in the family will lead to heartache;
· Our own selfish desires;
· Our inability to manage money properly, or hold a steady job;
· The lack of respect we showed to parents or elders growing up;
· Our poor use of time;
· We neglect our Bible study;
· We forget to pray about everything that causes anxiety (Philippians 4:7).
The question should not be “why” do good people suffer, but rather “how” will good people respond to suffering. The simple fact is that we will always suffer, for the rest of our time in this world. Sometimes things are just coincidence (wrong place, wrong time [Ecclesiastes 9:11-12]). Not to mention the fact that God is impartial and will not keep some from experiencing pain (1 Corinthians 10:13, Ecclesiastes 7:13-14). Those who deny the existence of God because of the existence of suffering forget that atheism does not solve the problem. If God is not real, then how does that affect wars, starvation, injustice, crooked politicians, or hurricanes? But if God is real, then the suffering only serves as a way to grow stronger (1 Peter 4:12). Suffering hones us and allows us to find maturity through tribulation – and that leads to deep contentment in the face of suffering.
“How long will I live?”
Six percent of respondents wanted to know exactly when they would die. But would you really want a life like that? There are some people in this world who already know exactly when they will die, but are they models of joy, contentment, and fulfillment? Inmates on death row can count the days until their execution, yet this does not somehow lead them to a more joyful existence. People contemplating suicide are in complete control of the time of their death, but their final moments are not spent in mirth, but in solemnity and depression. Moreover, most people would live unrestrained, wicked lives if they knew how long they had before death. They would simply save the very last day of life for all of their repentance. Where is the glory in that? Where is the victory over sin? Where is the devotion? Faith? Where is the attitude of lifetime service and commitment to one’s ideals? The very fact that God has not revealed how long we will live means He believes it is beneficial for us to be ignorant. Besides, the mystery leads us to live each day as if it were our last. We need to make the most of our time, friends (Colossians 4:5, Ephesians 5:16, 2 Peter 3:9-12).
Some questions for us
If USA Today were to switch roles in this survey, what kind of questions might God have for us? What would God like to know about us that just seems like a mystery from His perspective?
· Why do you not obey Me when I have made the path so easy?
· Why do you not use your minds for good and wholesome things?
· Why do you waste so much time?
· Why do you waste your talents on sin?
· Why do people think the Bible is so difficult to follow?
· Why do people reject Heaven? It is such a mystery to Me!